It was a partially sunny day. The wind was strong but there was no rain yet. Joshua was waiting in the queue with his KTM RC 390 in a petrol bunk somewhere on the East Coast Road twenty kilometres away from Chennai.
‘Last year, around this time, it was sixty-six rupees per litre! I remember it very distinctly’ Joshua said frustratedly.
Vicky, sitting behind him, replied ‘Now it’s eighty-one per litre. I know’
‘Greedy rich shareholders and spineless government’ Joshua cursed.
‘If the fuel was cheaper, what would have happened? ‘Vicky asked.
‘We would’ve visited Pondicherry more often, have fun more often’, Joshua replied.
Vicky sighed with a smile, ‘Yeah, but you would have turned more fuel into greenhouse gases. You will be contributing more to the climate change that’s happening. Any commodity that is harmful to the environment should be costly. That’s the only way you would use it less’, he explained
Joshua moved the vehicle forward as the queue moved and then he turned to Vicky ‘I agree Mister Civil Engineer. Enough with your environmental advice’ he jested.
It was unusually a sunny day in a developing locality somewhere in Ernakulam district, Kerala. Mohan Raj was looking around the construction site for the Senior Engineer. ‘Engineer Sir!!’ He greeted him outside the construction site.
The Engineer came walking through the busy site among the brick workers and cement heaps all over the place. ‘Hello sir!’ he greeted back ‘How are you sir? How is Chechi?’
‘All are doing well! My wife also came to the town with me, actually!’ Mohan replied as the both walked towards the nearby tea spot ‘Now she is in her brother’s house here’.
‘Oh, okay sir’ The engineer replied ‘Two glass tea! Both strong!’ he ordered as the both sat down on the old wooden bench painted blue.
Mohan Raj took out a bunch of affidavit papers from the file holder he carried. ‘I have brought all the originals and xerox of the approval certificates sir! All the approval work is done and I brought it as you asked.’
The Engineer checked the papers ‘Okay sir. The work will be complete within two months. Your Resort will be ready!’ he promised
‘Two glasses of strong tea!’ The chai maker called.
The Engineer took the glasses and gave one to Mohan ‘So, are you leaving Bangalore after the Resort is opened sir?’ he asked.
‘No, no’ Mohan laughed ‘I work in public sector sir! I can’t just leave the job. My wife’s side of the family will take care of the resort. Her brother will oversee the hotel’
‘Oh, okay’ The engineer sipped the tea
‘Sir, the materials used in foundation are effective, no? The final cost is less than estimated which is good, but still’, Mohan asked.
‘Sir, there are no land slides reported in this locality for the past fifty years. It’s just one floor building, there nothing to worry!’ The Engineer sounded confident
‘What about the drain?’ Mohan asked
‘I suggested typical Kerala style roof, but you wanted flat roofs. All the rain will reach the ground as per my design and moreover your hotel is built in a land area that is slightly higher compared to the neighborhood, and the rainfall is getting lesser every year, there will be no flooding problem even if you ask for it!’ The Engineer replied with a laugh
‘You can’t be sure about the rainfall with all the Climate change and global warming sir’ Mohan said worried.
Vicky focused his phone camera. The pottery wheel spun round and round as his grandmother pressed her four fingers tightly on the clay to bring the pot into shape. He was finally spending his vacation in his native as he wanted.
‘Throw the phone away!’ she said annoyed
Vicky pressed the ‘add to story’ button and slipped the phone in his pocket.
His grandmother held his hand and pulled it towards the clay. ‘Wet your hands with the clay! Don’t assume it’s dirty. Clay is not dirty!’
‘I know Aachi, I study Civil Engineering!’ Vicky said smiling as he pressed the edge of the clay.
‘We have to bring it to shape as fast as we can. Soon the sun will dry the clay, and when it dries it will be strong as a stone!’ she exclaimed
‘So, then wet it more. If you add more water, it will take longer time to dry’ told Vicky’s little sister sitting next to them painting dried out pots.
Vicky was curious what answer his grandmother would give.
‘It doesn’t work like that! The soil is strong without water, it is weak, out of shape and can be molded when you add a little water, the more water you pour the clay itself will become watery and flow away’ she replied
‘That’s exactly what my Soil Mechanics sir told! So it applies to all soil.Not just clay!’ Vicky said stunned.
‘So, if you pour more water, all the soil will erode like water? Even all the sand in my school ground?’ Vicky’s sister asked
Vicky was lost in thoughts ‘All you need is to pour more water’ he thought.
Mohan Raj was standing there not knowing how to answer his wife. He kept on calling to the phone number of the Engineer, but the number was unreachable. He was nowhere to be seen.
His wife was sitting in the corner along with her mother in the corner of her native house crying out loud, mourning in the pain of loss. In the middle of the all the crowd of relatives that surrounded, was the body of her brother wrapped up and ready to be taken
The unusually heavy flood that hit Kerala didn’t exempt Mohan’s brother-in-law. The ground level of the Resort building which was higher than the neighborhood dissolved into eroding soil and moved the Resort building along with its shallow foundation causing the single floor building to collapse. There were no guests at that time. Only two servants and Mohan’s brother in law.
If the authorities didn’t approve the construction, if the Engineer wasn’t that dumb, would the dead be alive?
If there was no climate change, if there was no such unusually record-breaking rainfall this year, would all the built-up structures that have collapsed be saved? Can we even blame anyone in particular?
The severe rainfall was two and half times the usual rainfall and it’s the highest recorded in the last hundred and eleven years. The Indian government was formed only seventy-two years ago while the state of Kerala was formed sixty-three years ago. Although the causality was not dangerously high, the property damage is about twenty thousand crore which the people of Kerala cannot recover from for years to come. This year’s flood is one of the obvious phenomena that happened as the direct result of Climate change, the human induced climate change. We are all equally responsible to take care of our planet and all of its changes and challenges.